Tonypandy Community College is one of the Teach First schools we will be working with as part of our ‘Change Career, Change Lives’ campaign.
Tonypandy Community College is one of the Teach First schools we will be working with over the coming months as part of our teacher recruitment campaign.
In partnership with charity Teach First, Trinity Mirror has launched the ‘Change Career, Change Lives’ campaign across England and Wales which urges people to recognise the value of teaching in helping to shape the next generation of talent, to consider the benefits a teaching career can offer in the classroom and beyond, and to step up to the exciting, rewarding challenge which teaching presents.
And the Rhondda secondary school, which has two Teach First students as members of staff and has had three in total since 2013, is helping us along the way.
Headteacher Helen O’Sullivan says the current recruits – maths teacher Jade Hodgson, 24, from Barry, and Ruth Simpson, also 24, from Guernsey – have been a breath of fresh air for the Rhondda Cynon Taf council school.
They are two success stories of the Teach First programme who made tough decisions to change careers from jobs that did not suit them, and with dedication and hard work they are now teaching in a classroom environment.
We spoke about their experiences with Teach First on a recent visit to the Tonypandy school.
Jade, from Barry, has a degree in Maths from Cardiff University, and worked for a year for the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
She first applied to Teach First in 2013, and a year-and-a-half into her two-year placement in the Rhondda she has been offered a permanent job from September 2016.
Jade said: “At the same time I was working for the ONS I was running a children’s choir, and the idea that I could be a teacher came from that, and Teach First gave me an opportunity.
“You’ve got to love working hard. At the start, I’d describe it not as sink or swim but swim or swim. You have to expect hard work, to give everything to the job.
Speaking about her new career, she added: “Every day is productive – you are helping people learn.
“It isn’t easy, especially at the start. Sometimes incidents with students get to you, and you do have to think about what’s happened. But nine times out of 10 it’s not personal – they’ve got so many issues and things going on that it’s a reaction to you.
“But teaching is definitely something to tackle when you are young and you’ve got a lot of energy. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t you’ve still made a difference.”
Read more: The inspiring video which shows how a change in career to teaching could also change your life
Ruth Simpson, 24, from Guernsey, has a degree in Marine Biology and Oceanography from Plymouth University and has worked for two years as a building surveyor.
She said that teaching was something she’d never considered until the very end of her undergraduate degree.
She said: “I was a building surveyor for two years in Gurnsey and had started a distance degree, but it wasn’t for me.
“All my family are teachers and I thought I’d never do it. The idea first came at the end of my third year in university – I saw a BBC programme called Tough Young Teachers, which followed around six new Teach First teachers at a London school.
“The programme has been absolutely brilliant. I’ve found this school in particular the most fantastic environment, and all my mentors have been great.
“I found starting a placement in teaching a massive change – all of a sudden I’m in the position of a role model for students. You just take it on.
“The first few weeks were a shock – just how much goes on. As much as they tell you it’s going to be a challenge, it’s still a shock.
“But it’s catching. When you achieve something, however small, it means so much.”
Headteacher Mrs O’Sullivan is delighted with the progress of her two Teach First teachers, and said the Teach First programme has done so much for the school in such a short space of time. She would not hesitate to accept teachers from the programme in future.
She said: “We are delighted to be part of the programme. It has been a very positive process, and we’ve learned an awful lot.
“We have been allocated three exceptional students in the core subjects – one in English, one in maths and one in science.
“They are well-qualified, highly-motivated people at the start of their careers.
“It is hard work, and it’s not a training programme. There’s no magic formula that ‘X’ plus ‘Y’ plus ‘Z’ equals a good teacher.
“All three of them have had their ‘moments,’ which is normal because coming in from day one as a teacher is hard. You’ve got to be resilient, energetic and enthusiastic.
“It’s a courageous decision to go from having a career mapped out in front of you, and then to make the change into teaching.
“As well as us helping them, the three young people have lifted us – they have had a positive impact on who we are as an organisation.
“If everything else was equal, I’d take a Teach First candidate over someone from other routes into teaching.”
In January 2015, following a November 2014 inspection, the school was put into special measures by education inspectors Estyn after a lack of improvement in its maths and English. Estyn has returned to the school for several follow-up inspections since.
In August 2015, GCSE results day saw huge strides forward for the school – a staggering 18% improvement from 2014. The increase saw 49% of pupils achieve five A* to C grades with English and maths – as well as the highest record of passes in English and maths in the history of the school
* Change Career, Changes Lives with Teach First and Wales Online. Apply now for limited places for the 2016 Teach First cohort. Teach First recruit on a rolling basis and the team is ready to support you through the application process. For more information visit http://graduates.teachfirst.org.uk/what-can-you-do/changing-career
You can also join Teach First at one of their presentations. You will hear first-hand accounts of what teaching in a Teach First school is like, get details on how to apply and meet a member of the dedicated Experienced Hires team who will be on hand to answer all of your questions.
A presentation will be held at Cardiff Castle on Thursday March 10 from 6pm until 8pm.